Make Welcome The Wild

boneyard sunrise

A while back we had the incredible opportunity to reimagine the branding and website for our friends at Coastal Expeditions. Our first meeting with husband-and-wife owners Chris and Kari Crolley was full of all the energy and excitement we hope for and seek out in clients. A few days after that initial meeting, Kari stopped by our office with a box . Inside it was a universe of things: sharks’ teeth, shells, dried plants and sea life, maps, animal skulls, postcards, and ephemera of all kinds. It was like a museum exhibit out from behind the glass, a work of art, and a deep look inside Kari and Chris’s hearts, minds, and souls. As we stood in amazement, pulling things out of the box, and naming them, Kari smiled and said, “I want you to make our website out of this box.”

I will always remember the power of those words and that gift.

In the work we do, we sometimes forget about the immense trust people put in us — to tell their stories, to rethink and reshape their brand, marketing, and businesses. When Kari gave us that box, to me she was saying, “Here is our livelihood, our passion, our family: please take them and us where we need to go.”

What an honor.

As I often do, I wrote a manifesto for Kari, Chris, and their incredible team: a story that speaks to more than just what and how they do what they do, but why it matters.

We study Lowcountry tides, flora, fauna, and history. We explore. Make maps and routes. Care for our guests. Refine our skills. Nurture our fleet. Feed our curiosity and sense of adventure. And work always in service of the natural, the mystical, and the magical.

We can’t summon the sunrise or sunset. And while we can’t beckon the blue heron, the osprey, or the dolphin, by virtue of our lifelong fascination and love for them, we find the route to be in their company, again and again. Which makes us devoted students of a particular discipline. Practitioners attuned to a particular frequency. Guides on a particular journey. Called to safely and securely put people in the path of beauty; then, step back, and witness what unfolds.

What moves you? When, or how will it manifest, we can’t predict. Is it sunlight shimmering along the water’s surface? Paddling toward your own strength? An ancient shark’s tooth in the palm of your hand whispering of millennia? The rush of air through a pelican’s wings as it takes flight?

Only you may know in that instant – when you move outside yourself – and into the wideness of the universe. On a soulful journey to become more than just aware of the beauty around you, but part of it. So that seeing a dolphin rise in the water beside you is no longer just a personal, glorious sight, it’s an exchange between another life and yours, a story to share, a feeling you can’t quite name. We believe that’s the exact place where want and wish fall away – and awe and wonder are revealed.

To us, that’s the connection we’re born for – the stimulation we long for. It’s the stuff of earth and sea and stars. Of people and animals and plants. Of natural and human history entwined. The understanding of our precious smallness in the largeness of the world and the rhythm we do not make, but are made of.

That’s the gift, and it belongs to all of us.

Coastal Expeditions
make welcome the wild

Marketing Mount Pleasant

A few weeks back, my pals at Blue Ion and Gil Shuler Graphic Design asked me to help craft a brand story about the town of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. As some of you know, Mount Pleasant has been in the midst of a strategic marketing initiative to enhance and grow the community.

Armed with some heavy-duty resident research and strategic planning, Blue Ion, Dean Foster, Gil Shuler and I went to work to craft creative to support the initiative. After much discussion, Gil put together a super sweet logo. I crafted the story below. Many thanks to Dean Foster for sharing his thoughts and insights and always, to Blue Ion and Gil. Big squeeze.

One last thing: Yes, I am a born and bred New Jersey girl writing about the Lowcountry of South Carolina. But let me just say: duh, I’m a writer, that’s what I do. And two, for a year and a half I lived in a quirky apartment on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant. I cannot tell you exactly what that time and those long walks through the Old Village did to me, but perhaps it’s evident in the words.

To understand Mount Pleasant is to intimately know the water – the ebb and flow of the tide. The marsh creeks and rivers that surround us. Living here means  measuring time and joy by the water. Is it high tide? Can we take the johnboat out? Here, water is sustenance – shrimp boats at dawn, crabbing off the dock, the day’s catch being hauled in. It’s the taste that lingers on your lips after day is done.

Mount Pleasant is an idealist. Our strong neighborhoods are built from generations of strong neighbors – folks who work hard, whose children play with yours, who say “hey” when they see you, who gently guide even the most confused tourists to the beach. Our solid schools are crafted by a close-knit community of teachers, citizens, parents and children.

Mount Pleasant is borne of the land and water. Protecting them is part of who we are. Not just because our shrimp are caught in local waters or our tomatoes grown on local vines. Not just so that our children and grandchildren have them to enjoy, but because this kind of raw beauty, this rich history and culture has a harmony to it we strive to emulate. The land and water have a life well beyond ours and are at their best when shared.

Mount Pleasant tells a great story – from Sewee Indian to Capitan O’Sullivan, from dirt road to highway, from inlet to open sea, to “talkative” wood floors and tin roofs to fisher monger to physician. There is a gift for conversation here, an ease of sharing, which brings with it the ability to question, listen, entertain and lend a needed hand. Some say it’s Southern hospitality. The stuff of beloved novels or bedtime stories. To us, it’s simply a way of life. The sweet life.

Check out the video Blue Ion and friends put together based on the copy here.

My sister’s sweater

This poem was inspired by a story my friend Penny told me about the sweater she attempted to buy for her sister many Christmases ago.

NOT the sweater in question.

Now. As you know, I’m a writer.

I sell. I market. It’s part of what I do.

This poem is a wee slap in the face to all that.

My Sister’s Sweater

My sister wants this sweater from The Gap.
You probably know which one it is.
It’s the one in all the commercials.

Therein lies the problem.

There’s nothing really remarkable about this sweater.
It’s a basic, wool, cable knit sweater that could’ve been knit in 1978.
Perhaps the trouble started with the commercials.And that white background.

Can’t you just picture the marketing people sitting around a table brainstorming?
Let’s just keep it simple.
Show the clothes on real people.
Just a clean, white background.
It’s genius.
Advertising genius.

Let’s not kid ourselves.
These are not real people.
These are actors, models, musicians, dancers—professionals.
They were handpicked for this gig.
The clothes they’re wearing are tailored to fit their bodies.
To look as sassy, sexy and cool as possible.
They’re on screen to make you want that sweater.
Or jacket.
Or button down shirt.
It’s a total conspiracy to get you to buy.

Remember that West Side Story commercial?
You sang ‘When you’re a jet’ all week.
Or how about the one with Carole King and her daughter?
Or the one with Seal?
Or any of the other celebrities stuffed into their jeans and sweaters?
How much does one get paid for a Gap commercial anyway?
Which brings me back to the problem at hand.

This sweater for my sister.

It costs $48 dollars.
This is a lot of money for a basic sweater
This same sweater at Old Navy costs $20 to $30
The sweater is made in Sri Lanka
It probably cost 2 bucks to make because
They’re undoubtedly paying some poor soul slave wages to make this crummy sweater
So not only am I getting rooked for $48, but I’m also oppressing someone
Great.  Happy Holidays.

All of this is on my mind when I walk into the Gap to purchase the aforementioned sweater.
Oppression, marketing, showtunes.

I was hoping the sweater would be on sale.It wasn’t.
One of the Gapettes approached me.
“It’s a great sweater, isn’t it?”
“Is it on sale?”
“Um, it was—last week.  Not now.”
“Why is that do you think?”
“Well, I’m not sure. We don’t have any sales for the 2 weeks before Christmas.”
“Do you know why that is?”
“I’m not sure.”
“I’ll tell you why.”
Because the Gap is committed to gauging the American public.
This sweater has been on t.v. more than Madonna.
It’s on every billboard and in every magazine.
This sweater is hot.
It’s the sweater.
And you know that we all want it.
So you’re holding it hostage.
The ransom is $48.
It’s a small robbery, but a robbery nonetheless.”

“Tell you what,” the Gapette says,
Clearly fearing that I have an automatic weapon.
“We’re running our friends and family discount this week.
Do you know anyone or have any relatives who work for the Gap?”
She smiles.
I look her in the eye.“I know YOU.
Do YOU want to be my Gap friend?”
She looks right back at me and you know what she says?

I left the store.

I went online where the sweater is on sale.
I click; I purchase.
My sister can be cool.
Which is just the biggest crock, isn’t it?
That stupid little label with the 3 letters.
That label could just as easily say ASS or ICK
Somewhere along the line the decision was made that the Gap is cool
That this sweater, is cool.
Who made this decision?

Because honestly, I’d like to have a word with them.

Remember when the Gap used to sell jeans and t-shirts for reasonable prices?
Fall into the Gap.
It’s no Gap.
They should call it the Abyss.
More accurately the Vapid Abyss of Inane Nonsense—acronym VAIN.
See what I just did?
I marketed.
Ya know what’s funnier?
This f@cking sweater will be worn once by my sister
She will wear it to a bar, drink her face off and possibly puke
this sweater
This sweater will end up as an unrecognizable ball on the floor of her room

Take a good look at this sweater
Because by Christmas 2011
That familiar white background will appear on your t.v.
And suddenly Bjork will go singing and dancing across your screen
Wearing a sweater
And it won’t be this sweater
It will not be off white
It will not be cable knit
Because in 2011 this sweater is over
It’s obsolete
It sucks
Bjork’s retro 80s sweater debacle will become the sweater
That my sister will just have to have